Civil society groups observe World Peace Day, urge grass-roots peacebuilding effort



South Sudan Leaders Signing The Revitalized Peace Agreement In The Sudanese Capital Khartoum (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

September 21st 2019 (Nyamilepedia)-On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, celebrated on 21 September 2019, a group of national and international civil society organizations joined forces, calling on all stakeholders to promote grass-roots peace-building initiatives that will lay strong foundations for lasting and sustainable peace in the country.

“We – the undersigned national and international civil society organisations – want to highlight the critical role of local peace-building in ensuring sustainable peace in South Sudan. With less than two months until the deadline for the formation of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan, attention is focused on the high-level peace process and the will of political leaders,” said CSOs a statement.

The civil society groups stressed that as the ceasefires continue to hold in major parts of the country, more efforts are needed to support peace at the grassroots levels.

“While it is vital to ensure that ceasefires are sustained and that there is continued political will to implement the peace agreement, ultimately hope for national peace will depend on whether this translates into lasting change at all levels in South Sudan. The daily suffering of people in South Sudan is fundamentally linked to violent conflict, which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives as a consequence of food insecurity, malnutrition, disease, war, inter-communal clashes, and murder.”

In light of the continuing humanitarian crisis facing millions of people, the statement urged the need for grass-roots strategies aimed at addressing all the root causes of South Sudan’s conflict.

“Millions of dollars have been spent on responding to humanitarian needs and high-level mediation efforts. However, in the long term, the only way to reduce South Sudan’s vulnerability to future crises is to ensure that the root causes of conflict are addressed, and that peace strategies reflect the multi-level nature of conflict in South Sudan.”

The joint statement issued by 14 civil society organizations explained that South Sudan’s conflict has a number of factors deeply rooted in the marginalization of communities and that addressing these root causes will be one solution to all the problems facing the people of South Sudan.

“Conflict in South Sudan is complex, it overlaps across geographic levels and it has its roots in decades of civil war and marginalisation. The dynamics of conflict at the local level are diverse – cycles of inter-communal violence, traditional patterns of seasonal migration, cattle raiding, historic trauma and grievances, unresolved issues from previous conflicts, gender-based violence, competition for natural resources – with profound implications for national stability,” the statement added.

The groups noted that, acknowledging the importance of encouraging communities to participate in the ongoing peace process is overriding and will reduce violence in the country.

“Peace is made and broken every day in South Sudan. On a daily basis, local peace makers prevent conflict from escalating into crisis, and sow the seeds for social cohesion and coexistence. There is a need for greater recognition of the value of local knowledge, expertise, and agency, more effort to connect local communities with national leaders to give them a say in how peace can be more meaningful to their daily lives, and more support for peacebuilding,” said CSOs.

And emphasized that “We recognise that the unique roles of youth and of women will be essential to achieving transformative peace – there is a need to ensure their ownership, build their capacity to manage conflict, and help to expand their choices through education, livelihoods opportunities, and civic awareness and participation.”

For peace to prevail, more concerted efforts from all stakeholders are required, and we therefore call for:

  • Political actors to live up to their pledges, and implement the peace agreement with a genuine commitment to peace – especially in relation to reconciliation, healing and transitional justice – whilst also committing to renewed efforts to engage with grassroots voices and approaches (e.g. integrating lessons from faith actors and customary traditions);
  • Increased dedicated and long-term funding which effectively supports multi-level peacebuilding and prioritises the role of local actors based on a strong understanding of local contexts and what matters to communities;
  • Continued strong international diplomatic engagement with the political process, with clarity around benchmarks for support for the peace agreement;
  • Strong engagement with youth and women, especially support to empower and equip them to manage their own responses to peace and conflict;

The CSOs appealed to South Sudan leaders to stem the flow of firearms among the local population, saying it’s high time for the people of South Sudan to promote peace at this critical juncture when the peace agreement risks collapse.

“A concerted effort to address the widespread prevalence of small arms.This is a time of hope, but also a time when peace is precarious, seemingly dependent on the hearts and minds of a handful of powerful people.
Noting that, “The road to peace is long, and will require continued commitment from all stakeholders to both supporting high-level peace, and strengthening the capacity of South Sudanese to build a peaceful future for themselves, on their own terms.”

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